We often misunderstand others. We can’t say we get how others feel.
My city is currently on quarantine (thank you, COVID-19), so I’m back to watching and evaluating K-dramas. Writing feels good, especially after not doing it for more than a month. Video games (my Nintendo Switch) took over most of my reading/Netflix time, hence my brief hiatus. Thankfully, Kuya Maui and I finished Because This Is My First Life last night. We don’t usually complete TV series together, so when it does happen, I want to immortalize the experience with a review.
Because This Is My First Life (이번 생은 처음이라) is about Se-hee and Ji-ho, two people with very incompatible personalities. Se-hee (Lee Min-ki) is a house-poor cat lover, while Ji-ho (Jung So-min) is an aspiring drama writer who suddenly becomes homeless. After a hilarious turn of events, they enter a contractual marriage. Se-hee gets a tenant (a new source of income), and Ji-ho gets a roof over her head. Convenient, isn’t it? It is, at first. But when warm feelings start to blossom, their tenant-landlord relationship becomes the epitome of “It’s complicated.”
Two pairs of lovebirds complement the main “ship” in the story. Ji-ho’s best friends (Soo-ji and Ho-rang) have romantic connections with Se-hee’s workmates (Sang-goo and Woo-seok). In spite of their stressful misunderstandings, all of these secondary characters give the series more humor and depth. Since each of the three love stories relies on specific tropes, this K-drama appeals to a wider audience.
This sounds ridiculous, but Se-hee’s pet cat was the primary reason why I started the K-drama. We aren’t allowed to raise cats in our condo, so I usually relieve my “catsickness” by watching adorable and funny cat videos. Goyangi/Uri (Korean for “cat” and “we,” respectively) provided a bit of catharsis every time the camera zoomed in on his face, but I really disliked his fake, robotic meows. If you’re familiar with the sound of natural meows, this little detail will also annoy you.
Se-hee and Ji-ho were both relatable protagonists, though not completely. For example, I resonated with Se-hee’s love for cats and alone time, but his extreme stoicism and self-deprecation were frustrating. I watched Beauty Inside before this K-drama, so I was mildly disappointed that Lee Min-ki’s role was another poker-faced archetype. The only difference was that Se-hee didn’t have prosopagnosia (face blindness).
Ji-ho’s passion for writing was her best feature. The K-drama industry must be so competitive that not even a degree in a prestigious school such as Seoul University can guarantee success. If I were in Ji-ho’s position, I would probably give up. How can you still be interested in scriptwriting after your boss rejects your work so many times and your director assaults you? Pursuing your dreams in spite of such emotional turmoil takes tenacity and inspiration. My only problem with Ji-ho was her fickleness; her feelings for Se-hee were as predictable as the wind.
The most exciting pair was Ho-rang (Kim Ga-eun) and Woo-seok (Kim Min-suk). Among all of the characters, they had the most significant problems. Even after being together for seven years, Ho-rang and Woo-seok couldn’t marry because they weren’t financially ready. Also, although Ho-rang always “encouraged” Woo-seok to propose to her, he wasn’t mature enough to read between the lines. To be fair, Ho-rang could have expressed her desire in straightforward terms (e.g., “Let’s get married.”). Nonetheless, it was impossible to choose a side. Both of them had fatal flaws that they had to overcome before marriage.
Soo-ji (Esom) and Sang-goo’s (Park Byung-eun) were my least favorite characters. They had good chemistry on-screen. However, I didn’t like the foundation of their relationship: a one-night stand. And this is very subjective, but Soo-ji was far from my ideal type. I refuse to comment on her femininity lest I offend someone. I was just grateful that she had mustered the courage to rebuke her perverted oppressor in the workplace.
I happily give Because This Is My First Life 3.75/5 stars. For me, the overall message is that we shouldn’t trivialize marriage, regardless of society’s progressive ideologies. If you enter this ideally permanent union on a whim, you can’t expect to have a happy life together. It’s high time couples said goodbyes to excuses such as “irreconcilable differences.”